Do you ever have the feeling that you’re fumbling with your family’s finances?
That you should know what to do Next even though you’re confused about all the advice out there?
Or maybe that your way of managing isn’t the best?
In nearly every conversation I have about money, women are consistently reluctant to say anything.
And with my closest friends, those that won’t shun me forever for being nosy, I’ve learned that it’s usually because they feel self-conscious about the way they manage. They worry that they’re not as savvy as they could be.
They feel pressured to have it all together or all figured out. And they just aren’t there yet.
And there are three very good reasons why women may feel this way.
Stupid Reason #1
Women undervalue their knowledge & experience compared with men.
It’s in the research! I was stunned when I read that, but it makes complete sense.
Men generally overvalue their knowledge and experience, which leads them to take action more often than a woman would. They are more willing to take risks and to “fake it til you make it”. They’re OK learning as they go because they have confidence in their ability to recover.
Whether it’s innate or learned, I see it in my children all the time. My sons are constantly pulling stunts that give me gray hairs. Their risk-tolerance is definitely higher than my daughters’, who are more measured and less aggressive in their approach to life.
Ruth Hayden, author & financial advisor, said in an interview with NPR:
"The studies say that men exaggerate what they know. They say they know more than they do. They pretend they're really good at investing but they really don't know what they're doing. And women diminish what they know. Which means we can't trust the resume of either one of them, by the way.
"Women always go, 'I don't know that, too.' And they're not willing to just say, 'I'll learn it as I go. It's OK. Life is about learning.' ... One of the things I teach my clients is that there are very few right and wrong answers.
"In my office, I show them how to do risk assessment. If I put my money in here, what's the upside? And what could be the potential downside? The way you make a decision is you manage the downside. 'Can I live with that? Can I manage that? If I can, let's go for it.' There is always some kind of a negative in every decision. And if women are waiting until they have all the negatives managed and they're absolutely sure — it's not going to happen."
So what do we do as women about our lack of confidence?
Take action. Just on the Next step, not on all of them.
Do you need to do xyz for your family’s finances? Then start with X.
You don’t have to wait until all the street lights turn green before you start moving forward; only the next light in line. Put your foot on the accelerator and start taking action.
What if you don’t know which step to take next?
The best place to begin is on that space between your ears. Try reading a personal finance book. My top three are Rich Dad Poor Dad, The Richest Man in Babylon, and Think & Grow Rich. They’re all classics that have molded the way I think about financial management and prosperity.
As you’re improving your wisdom, also improve your organization. You can start with my free 5-day course to organize your brain and your home.
Need even more? Join me for my free Live trainings inside my private Facebook group where I dig into some of the nitty-gritty about what makes money work and how we can manage it more easily and with better results.
Stupid Reason #2:
Women compare their bad days with other women’s Good/Best days.
Facebook envy anyone?
I probably don’t have to continue. Every woman knows what I’m talking about. I can just pack it up and go home.
But I’ll dig in a little further just to help you through it. ;)
I’ve been guilty of this. Every warm-blooded female on the planet has too. Why?
Because women are networking creatures. We need social connections. It’s wired into our brains. That’s what helps us manage lots of little children clamoring for our attention night and day. And keeps us coming back every morning for another round!
Women don’t work well in isolation.
“Now hang on, Wendy! I happen to like my solitude very much!”
Oh I hear ya, honey. I do too after a day of juggling 5 children.
I’m not just talking about what we might prefer at any given moment, though. I’m talking about the social dynamics that help us function at peak performance!
Women function at higher levels in collaborative environments like teams. And if you take that idea to it’s logical conclusion, as women we tend to compare our performance with those on that team. It’s how we continually push ourselves to excel and test our limits.
Men don’t need a team to have a friendly competition. They compete with anything that moves, even their own shadow.
But because women thrive on social interactions we provide ourselves with the very situation needed to push us into a higher version of ourselves.
The downside of that is, of course, comparing our bad days with other’s best days. Hardly a fair comparison, isn’t it?
Here is how it plays out in my Facebook feed. Awesome mom snaps pic of her and her kiddos enjoying the latest blockbuster movie in the theater--for the 5th time this year. And they have popcorn and drinks in hand.
That sweet date will put her back $50+ at least. Each. Time.
Or super-crafty-mom makes back-to-school night kits for all 2, 3, or 10 kiddos. Not to mention the Halloween costumes, summer fun-packs, St. Patrick’s day leprechaun visits, Valentines, Talk-like-a-Pirate Day celebrations, etc.
Add them up and how can anyone afford to do all that and a bag of chips?
Do you see my point?
From the outside looking in, other families never seem to have to budget their $, or struggle to have extras, or practice delayed gratification.
And maybe some families don’t budget at all or don’t need to. It’s more likely that they are making trade-offs to prioritize one activity over another.
I saw a really great example of that the other night.
I was out with my friends for a Girl’s Night at a local restaurant. One of the ladies ordered a very simple meal off of the “Sides” menu totalling less than $6. She then mentioned to me that she was spending less because she had enjoyed a laser tag date night with her son recently. She prioritized recreation over eating out.
And that’s totally cool. It’s her money. She gets to decide what it does for her. It’s more important to her to have great fun experiences with her family than eating fancy meals.
When I look at my Facebook feed I don’t know what’s going on with my friends’ finances. And truly it’s not our business.
Instead, let’s ask ourselves the question: why am I comparing myself in the first place?
Are we insecure because we fear we are managing wrong? Or that we made some stupid mistakes and want reassurance that other people are making the same mistakes?
Or maybe we want reassurance that it wasn’t a stupid mistake after all but just a lucky management decision that will turn out well eventually.
Our brains are constantly looking for clues that will validate our decisions or help us to “course-correct” those decisions.
Here’s an exercise for you. Get a piece of paper and answer the questions below:
Where am I expecting myself to be right now, and I’m not?
“I should already be….”
Fill in the answer that comes into your heart. And don’t be afraid of it. “Sit” with it. Let it have space inside you.
It is a result of your dreams, your expectations, AND the comparisons you make from the evidence around you.
And now you’re going to practice forgiving yourself. Forgiveness is a powerful tool with money.
It allows us to let go of those expectations and comparisons, and just be OK with where we’ve been and what we’ve done.
That doesn’t mean we have to be happy about all our choices!
I have a lot of regrets over stupid financial decisions I’ve made. But it would be an even bigger mistake to let those earlier mistakes dictate my family’s finances going forward.
So instead, we forgive ourselves for doing the best we could with what we knew at the time. It doesn’t matter if it was terrible or just mildly stupid. Forgiving yourself unlocks your ability to change for the better.
Stupid Reason #3:
I’ve made mistakes with money. My failures are obvious. There’s proof of my stupidity.
This has a lot of similarities with #2. Except that instead of just comparing, we are facing the very real results of our decisions and they are UG. LY.
Here’s a cringe-worthy example from my life:
Many years ago my husband and I decided that we wanted to jump on the bandwagon and get into Real Estate Investing. The real estate market in the United States was just starting to “heat up” in 2004-05 and we wanted to buy a house rather than rent.
We found a really good fixer-upper that scared the pants off my family but had great potential so we bought it. We spent the next few months pouring money into the house and turning it from a nightmare to a gem.
We chose to put about half of the repairs on a credit card (mistake #1) after we ran out of cash.
Next we decided to buy an investment property to get some rental income... Without cash on hand. (mistake #2)
We used our credit cards again to invest in a training program with a local real estate investor who would teach us how to do it (mistake #3).
Then we found a house with a seller who agreed to our unconventional purchase offer and we found ourselves in a contract for a second house payment. (mistake #4)
All within 9 months....
If you have ever done things like this, welcome to the club. ;) (Frankly, it’s not a very fun club.)
We were in over our heads financially and drowning fast. It didn’t help that during this period of time the U.S. Government had a “come-to-Jesus” moment and went after predatory lending practices by certain credit card companies.
As a result our card companies increased their minimum payment requirements and increased all the interest rates. Gone were the days of low or free credit cards. No more 0% introductory offers. We were paying full-price for our borrowed money.
What did we do?
We had to go from stupid to smart really fast.
We finally organized our money for the first time ever. I had to put our children in daycare and get a job. And we found a renter to live in the property. Then we started paying debt off.
It wasn’t easy. It was downright painful at times. There was lots of stress and fighting.
Look, personal tragedy can either stay tragic, or it can become a lesson. After a few years our paradigm shifted and we were able to see that messy experience with a fresh perspective.
Did we do some seriously stupid stuff? Yes.
Did it destroy us? No. Because we chose to forgive ourselves and learn.
We didn’t declare bankruptcy, but even if we had, we would have woken up the next morning and still been us. We would still be a couple and a family. We would have our faith in God.
Failure is absolutely one of the best teachers in life. It’s painful, humiliating at times, and very effective!
The next time you have an epic financial Failure, ask yourself: “Will I survive? Will I still have what is most important to me?”
And if the answer is Yes, then pick yourself up and keep working on getting yourself organized and pursuing your financial goals.
Not every decision we make is going to be a winner. And that’s OK. We learn more from failing than if we always succeeded.
If we had success every time we made a choice, how would we know that our success wasn’t a result of sheer dumb luck? We wouldn’t.
It’s only our failures that show with 100% accuracy which paths/choices will not work. So we change direction and try something else.
Remember the definition of stupidity: Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.
If you don’t like your results then learn from your failure and take a different action.
(The rest of the story:)
We kept the investment house for over 7 years. During that time we learned a lot about managing money, tax law, real estate law, handyman skills, and ourselves.
Did we make money? Yes.
How much? Definitely not the riches you see advertised on infomercials. Enough to still see value in real estate investing and to include it in our long-term financial plan.
We lived in our fixer-upper house for 9 years. During that time we redid every part of it, sometimes two and three times. We raised 5 kids. We loved the neighborhood. And when we changed jobs, sold it, and moved cross-country we felt like we'd left a child behind.
Most importantly: We learned to be organized with our money, to manage the downside risks of our choices, and to have confidence in ourselves. We gained RESILIENCE.
So in all those Stupid Reasons, where does the truth actually lie?
That you are more competent than you give yourself credit for. Trust yourself and take your Next Step.
That forgiving yourself for not being where you “think” you should be is the key to unlocking your wisdom with money.
That failure doesn’t define you, only teach you. So keep moving forward on your goals.
Just a few days ago we hit a major prosperity milestone.
I knew I had "arrived" because I was able to buy a set of Corelle soup bowls. You know, the white ones that are guaranteed never to chip or break? I’ve wanted some our entire married life but because they cost 3x as much as regular ceramic I haven’t been able to justify the expense.
When my husband was unpacking them at home, he commented that after 16 years I finally got my bowls. It made me smile to see them sitting in the cupboard.
This might seem silly, but I think you’ll appreciate what they represent for me after hearing this small part of my story.
Look, if I can go from being completely under-water on the verge of bankruptcy, to prosperity and confidence when I take financial risks, then you can change where you are too.
Start your daily habit: Recognize where you’re winning and what you need to do next, forgive yourself with grace, and appreciate the failure that gives you new opportunities.
You’ve got this. You’re closer than you think you are.